The individual awards for the NFL regular season were handed out tonight in New York, as we get set tomorrow’s Super Bowl battle. There was an expected landslide in the MVP vote, a surprise winner for Defensive Player of the Year, and resolution to a cluttered Coach of the Year debate. Here’s the winners of the major 2013 NFL awards, followed by nine thoughts from TheSportsNotebook…
MVP: Peyton Manning (QB, Denver)
Defensive Player of the Year: Luke Kuechly (LB, Carolina)
Coach of the Year: Ron Rivera (Carolina)
*Manning got 49 of 50 votes for MVP, which begs the question of who the idiot was that didn’t vote for him. Even worse, why did the idiot choose Tom Brady? Brady’s numbers were, by any standard, fairly pedestrian this season, and by his own high standards, they were poor. True, the problem was more a decimated Patriot receivers’ corps than the quarterback himself, but you can’t credibly argue that Brady should have been the MVP. Peyton’s 55 touchdown passes should have earned him a unanimous pick.
*We all knew Peyton was going to win in a landslide, but if you want to have a fun debate over who the runner-up should have been, why not Philadelphia Eagles’ running back LeSean McCoy? He won the rushing title and was the focal point of an offense that vindicated first-year head coach Chip Kelly and won the NFC East. That’s not a bad definition of an MVP, if not for Peyton’s dominant year.
*Kuechly really came out of nowhere. He had a big game in Week 16 against New Orleans, the game that settled the NFC South, and that apparently swung voters. I like Kuechly—I liked him coming out of Boston College two years ago, and I like his steady presence at middle linebacker. But I’m pretty biased in favor of playmakers at outside linebacker/strong safety, or a lockdown cover corner in this day and age. Kuechly strikes me more as just a solid football player than a Defensive Player of the Year type.
*I believe Robert Mathis should have been Defensive POY. The Indianapolis Colts’ defensive end led the league with 19.5 sacks, and his veteran presence has been a big part of the success this team has enjoyed its post-Manning era. Mathis doesn’t have a great deal of support around him—unlike Kuechly—but the Colt pass rushers still gets the job done.
*I’d have also been okay with Seattle Seahawks corner Richard Sherman or St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn for the award. In both cases, they play on defenses that have good talent surrounding them—Seattle’s secondary is the best in the NFL and St. Louis’ defensive front can claim the same status. That’s why I personally rank them behind Mathis, but Sherman and Quinn have a POY kind of impact, whereas Kuechly does not.
*I’m really not out to pick on Carolina, but I have almost as big a disagreement with Rivera getting Coach of the Year. It’s not that he didn’t do a good job, but there was a feeling among a lot of observers that Carolina had good talent (my podcast colleague, Greg DePalma at Prime Sports Network, picked them to win the NFC South back in August). Rivera certainly got his team to play at an even higher level than optimistic observers thought, but in a year where there were several strong candidates, Rivera seems like a stretch.
*The Kansas City Chiefs are another team that a lot of observers felt had more talent than their 2-14 showing of 2012 would indicate, which is why I wasn’t on the Andy Reid bandwagon. But wasn’t Reid’s turnaround more impressive than Rivera’s, when you consider the Chiefs had come off a year where everything came undone, while the Panthers had at least finished ’12 on a good note?
*I’m sympathetic to the case for Bill Belichick. Legends never win Coach of The Year awards, but the huge number of injuries on both sides of the ball left the Patriots decimated. Furthermore, Belichick the general manager does a subpar job of assembling players, making the performance of Belichick the coach even more impressive. It’s another example of why coaches shouldn’t wear two hats, but for the sake of this discussion, it does add to Belichick’s Coach of the Year credentials.
*But I think my final vote would have to go to Chip Kelly. There was a lot of doubt as to whether his hurry-up offense could work in the NFL, when he came in from Oregon. Then he had to deal with the Riley Cooper’s public racial slurs back in August. Then Kelly had to make the gutsy decision to bench Michael Vick and go with Nick Foles. It paid off in spades, and the team went from 4-12 to 10-6 and won an NFC East. That’s a very complete case for Coach of the Year.